Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Friday, August 31, 2007

2001: The 2007 Music Video

I have always been a great 2001 – A Space Odyssey fan. I have always felt it was a work of cinematic and storytelling genius. I particularly loved the imagery sat against the timeless classics, such as the perfectly juxtaposed Thus Spake Zarathustra against the velvet emptiness of space. But hang on, it is decades later and a Youtube video artist may have actually improved on the original. Check this powerful “music video” out for yourself!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Gliding Home at Mach 18

After the Columbia disaster, no Space Shuttle landing will ever be the same again – not to anyone. When the STS-118 mission was on its way in just two days ago, I sat on one of the many landing consoles to monitor its return. It would land some four miles from where I actually sat and would come in from the east, so that any view of it from this distance would be fleeting and quick. My best view by far was from the console before me and the images beamed back from the landing site itself.

Shuttle landings are every bit as exciting as launches in my opinion. I love the excitement of seeing a 100 ton glider streaking in from space itself and landing at such incredible speeds – yet with such astonishing grace. All of it is, of course, the graceful dance of the endpoint of ten thousand equations per second accomplished both months in advance and in real time, guiding down what still seems like an impossible mission – and all of it accomplished in near silence and all the smooth precision of a beautiful ballet.

The first time I went out for a shuttle landing – I arrived at the SLF (Shuttle Landing Facility) just as the shuttle streaked over Hawaii. Less than half an hour later, it was on the ground, wheels locked! It is difficult to appreciate what is happening in space as that unpowered glider streaks in at Mach 18 with no second chances if something – anything - goes awry. The belly of the ship and her wing edges are being painted by an ionized plasma blowtorch that reverses the energy spent by its rockets on the way to space - only this energy is being spent entirely on her skin! If anything goes wrong in this play of events that are measured in milliseconds, the consequences, as we discovered, are more than awful.

The photo above is presented here to prove that I wake up each morning with something other than seaweed and sharks on my mind!

Space Beer

Ralph Buttigieg

Sydney, NSW


Graphic Microgravity Enterprises (told you theres' water on Mars!)

For a long time space proponents have talked about space-based products. We were supposed to get pharmaceuticals, advanced alloys and even ball bearings manufactured in the microgravity of space. Well, I haven't seen any space pharmaceuticals but we now have space beveridges including space beer.

The entrepreneurs at Microgravity Enterprises have teamed up with the rocketeers at UP Aerospace to bring the Earth a space-based energy drink, sports water and a beer. UP Aerospace has a sub orbital rocket service that Microgravity Enterprises uses to take some of their ingredients into space. After experiencing several minutes of microgravity the payload is parachuted back to Earth and used in the manufacture of Antimatter Space Energy Drink, Space2O Water and Comet's Tail Amber Ale.

I'm not sure what improvement microgavity has on the drinks but seems to have improved their sales.

New Mexico Business Weekly - August 10, 2007 by Kevin Robinson-Avila NMBW Staff

The world's first space beer made its inaugural flight at Kelly's Brewery in Albuquerque. Microgravity Enterprises Inc., which partnered with Kelly's to make Comet's Tail Amber Ale from yeast that went to space, held a "Launch Fest" on August 4th at the brewery.

In addition to space beer, the company sold Space2O™bottled water and an energy drink called Antimatter, both of which contain ingredients that flew to suborbit on the UP Aerospace rocket that launched from the New Mexico Space Port in April. The water and energy drink have been sold on the Internet since July 4, but the Launch Fest was the first opportunity for customers to sample Microgravity's space beer. The ale proved extremely popular, even at $3.75 a pint. "We went through three kegs in about four hours," said Zach Guilmette, head brewer at Kelly's. "I've never seen a new beer sell so quickly." Most customers said the novelty of drinking space beer was simply irresistible. "It's the curiosity hook," said Joel White, as he downed a pint. "The fact that it went to space sort of guarantees that you have to at least try it."

Some patrons refused to believe the yeast actually went to suborbit. "I just don't believe it," said Steve Atkinson. "It's a hoax. I mean, how did they get yeast into space?" Even so, Atkinson drank the brew. "It's something new, and it's good beer. I'd drink it again," he said.

Microgravity is banking on that "curiosity hook" to sell its products. "We're entering a saturated market where companies with deep pockets dominate," said Darryl Hupfer, executive vice president for sales and marketing. "You have to do something to build a niche and draw attention to your product. We're hoping the novelty of having sent ingredients for the drinks to space will get people to step up and try it."

The company has already received some large orders for Space2O™ and Antimatter. A Kentucky-based liquor chain with six stores in Lexington and Louisville bought a 144-case pallet of Antimatter and two 70-case pallets of Space2O™, Hupfer said. At $36 and $24 a case, respectively, the Kentucky sale brought in $8,544. .....

This gets me thinking.... Perhaps Atlantica Expedition aquanauts might take a home brew kit down with them. Shark Beer, the beer brewed on the bottom of the sea!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Space jump near

Ralph Buttigieg
Sydney, NSW

Photo Michel Gangne, Agence France-Presse

We have previously reported on Mr Michel Fournier amazing plan to to sky dive from 40km, through that little explored region called Near Space. He failed to raise the necessary funds last year but sometime next month he will have another attempt.

After years of training, millions of pounds of funding and numerous thwarted attempts, the daredevil Frenchman is expected to make the jump over the Saskatchewan plains in Canada next month.

In the process of le Grand Saut or "Super Jump", the 63-year-old hopes to complete a lofty hat-trick - breaking records for the highest ever parachute jump, the longest sky dive, and the highest altitude achieved by a person in a balloon.

Mr Fournier will be dressed in a £35,000 carbon fibre suit designed to protect him from freezing temperatures of -100C, as well as from extremely high temperatures caused by the air resistance created by his high-speed fall.

A re-enforced crash helmet will protect his ears from the thunderous sonic boom he will create as he breaks the sound barrier.

He will also have to spend hours before his leap inhaling pure oxygen to dispel any traces of nitrogen from his blood due to the thinness of the air at 40,000m.

Over the past two decades Mr Fournier has sold antique furniture, a prized gun collection and even his home to press ahead with his dream of completing the record-breaking dive.

He came closest in 2003, when his attempt was thwarted as his balloon burst shortly before lift-off.

"People have said I am too old, but I am very fit and have trained hard," said the veteran of more than 8,500 parachute jumps who has followed a rigorous training regime including running, lifting weights, and yoga.

"I would be lying if I said I wasn't afraid, but I am also very excited. It really is a leap into the unknown."

More here. Good luck Michael!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Another projection of power in Aquatica

Credit: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Ralph Buttigieg

Sydney, NSW

Hot in the wake of the flag planting Russian submarine comes the following response from the USA.

SEATTLE (AP) -- A U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker is headed to the Arctic to map the sea floor off Alaska, as Russia, Denmark and Canada assert their claims in the polar region, which has potential oil and gas reserves.

The lead scientist on the expedition scoffs at the political implications.

"We're basically just doing science,'' said Larry Mayer, director of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire. "There's no flag-dropping on this trip,'' he said in an interview from Durham, N.H.

The Healy left Puget Sound on Monday and should be in Barrow around Aug. 17, said Russ Tippets, a spokesman at the Coast Guard Pacific area office in San Francisco. Mayer will meet the Seattle-based icebreaker Healy at Barrow, Alaska, and head about 500 miles north with a team of about 20 scientists to map an area known as the Chukchi Cap.

Russian media assert that the Healy's mission signals that the United States, along with Canada, is actively joining the competition for resources in the Arctic. Melting ice could open water for drilling or create the long-sought Northwest Passage for shipping. A Russian submarine dropped that nation's flag Aug. 2 on the floor of the Arctic Ocean under the North Pole.

Mayer denied the reports. "We've had this trip planned for months, and it has nothing to do with the Russians planting their flag,'' he said....

Now it may be perfectly true that there is no direct link between this research expedition and the Russian episode but it clearly shows the international interest in this part of Aquatica.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Growing Homes From Seawater

In the natural world, an astonishing miracle is accomplished all over the world – both on land and in the oceans – when a microscopic organelle – powered by the sun - transforms a gas and a liquid into a solid. The process is, of course, photosynthesis within the chloroplast, converting carbon dioxide gas and water into a solid sugar polymer called cellulose, a chain inverted matrix of the simple sugar of glucose (C6 H12 O6). Nature binds this soluble sugar into an insoluble form, or plants would melt during each rain. Through this process, all wood products are created and from these we build homes, furniture and countless other creations.

There is another, equally astonishing feat that may be accomplished in the oceans by the hand of man using what nature has handily supplied. It is called accretion. This process was discovered by Wolf Hilbertz in the early 80’s. By this process, a current conducting grid (think wire mesh) is lowered into the ocean. A low power, direct current is applied to the grid (it can be the power created by a solar cell) and a fascinating thing begins to happen. Many dissolved solids on the ocean begin to cling to the wire mesh in solid form (called precipitation). But these solids cling to the mesh and one another with the consistency and strength of concrete! Over the course of weeks and months, the solids “grow together” and form a solid sheet of solid material that resembles concrete so much it has been called “Seacrete”.

With just a little imagination, one can see where this process has astonishing potential. For example, of the shape of the mesh was in the shape of a habitation structure, then the structures of an undersea colony can be literally “grown” undersea from dissolved elements in the ocean itself. After all, there are an estimated 200 million tons of dissolved solids in every cubic mile of ocean water – more than enough to build as many structures as one would ever need. The secret is, of course, to harvest enough power and build with the greatest process efficiency.

In the photos above, you can see two views of an accreted material that was created undersea at the Marine Resources Development Foundation at Key Largo, Florida. Note it has an uneven surface and it can be formed around any shape. It can be machined just like concrete.

The Atlantica Undersea Colony Project is already at work finding the answers to all those questions. The topic is also covered in my book, UNDERSEA COLONIES. In the next few months we will be launching a set of investigations determining such things as mesh sizes, densities, power densities, etc to work out the most efficient accretion processes. It is our plan that when Atlantica is stated, on the very first day we will begin “growing” the next generation of habitats from the sea using solar power from the surface.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The "Lost" forest of Africa

Ralph Buttigieg
Sydney, NSW
Photo Credit Andy Plumptre/Wildlife Conservation Society

My very first Quantum Limits post was on the discovery of the “Lost World”, the unexplored jungle region of Indonesia. As I expected Africa still has regions yet to be explored..

In a once-lost forest in Africa, six animal species new to science have been discovered, members of a two-month expedition now reveal, including a bat, a rodent, two shrews and two frogs.

"If we can find six new species in such a short period, it makes you wonder what else is out there," said Wildlife Conservation Society researcher Andrew Plumptre.

The bat appears to be a kind of horseshoe bat (genus Rhinolophus), known for the large horseshoe-shaped "nose leaves" used for directing their ultrasound.

These new species were discovered in an expedition from January and March 2007 into woods just west of Lake Tanganyika, which have been off limits to scientists for more than 50 years. The area is a remote corner of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been gripped by unrest and war for decades.

Spirits linked with this area include Kabogo, said to occasionally manifest itself as a ghostly boat on Lake Tanganyika at night said to guarantee good fishing if seen, as well as Misotshi, who has taboos against the killing of chimpanzees and the destruction of the forest. For this reason, local chiefs suggested naming the area the Misotshi-Kabogo Forest, the researchers said.

The scientists found that nearly 386 square miles (1,000 square kilometers) of forest, almost the size of all of Hong Kong, remained intact. The woods stretched from the shores of Lake Tanganyika up to elevations of 8,940 feet (2,725 meters) above sea level, or roughly seven times the height of the Empire State Building.

These woods have been isolated from much of the Congo rainforest, the second largest rainforest in the world, for at least 10,000 years, which explains why they held new species, said Wildlife Conservation Society researcher Deo Kujirakwinja. They proved extraordinarily rich, providing a home to chimpanzees, elephants, leopards, monkeys, birds, reptiles, frogs and other amphibians, hogs, jackals, mongooses, porcupines, and antelopes known as bongos....

As the scientist said,”what else is out there?” Perhaps the next time the researchers visit the Congo they can try to find Mokele-mbembe.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Eight million year sleep

Ralph Buttigieg
Sydney, NSW


Heres another amazing discovery from the frozen frontier. Bacteria still alive after 8 million years!? How do they know it was so long? Also how deep where the bugs buried?

The ancient bacteria were found frozen in the world's oldest known tracts of ice, the debris-covered glaciers of Antarctica.

"We think that they were pretty much locked in a frozen, inanimate state for that period of time," said lead study author Kay Bidle, a marine microbiologist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

It's also possible that some of the microbes were capable of maintaining their metabolism within tiny droplets of water suspended in the ice, Bidle said.

Bidle and colleagues retrieved and revived two samples of bacteria from the glacial ice. The first was a hundred thousand years old, and the second was around eight million years old.

The eight-million-year-old bacteria were alive, but barely.

Their genes were severely damaged from long exposure to cosmic radiation, which is higher at Earth's poles.

The radiation bombarded the bacteria's DNA with high-energy particles, which broke apart the DNA's chemical bonds and hacked it into shorter pieces.

This discovery is certainly relevant to Martian exploration although I would think human explorers have a better chance of finding snap frozen bugs than robots like Phoenix.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Under the ice

Ralph Buttigieg

Sydney, NSW

The big question I have regarding those Russian flag planters is what did they find under the Arctic ice? Was it only mud or is there something worth seeing? Above is a photograph from the book “Under Antarctic Ice” theres certainly a few interesting sights under Antarctica, although I'll make sure to take a well insulated dry suit when I go there. Below is another photograph and theres more here. Thanks to polar explorer Ben Saunders for the link.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Watching Phoenix

As Ralph posted yesterday minutes after the launch, the Mars Phoenix lander departed the earth yesterday on its voyage to land on the Martian north polar regions.

Yesterday morning at launch time on Merritt Island, it was dark and well before sunrise when I left my residence. Stepping outside to drive for a good view of the launch the first thing I noticed was that the mid-summer Florida are was thick humid and uncomfortable even just after 5AM. I walked to my car and drove it away from the trees to a place where I could safely pull over and get a good look at the eastern horizon.

The Phoenix launched right on schedule, as the blackness of the night sky was fully illuminated with a dull orange glow that grew from a small flush to a fully developed sense that a fast artificial sunrise was in progress. But within seconds, the brilliant orange sky was defined by a bright white spot that rose above the tree tops and streaked skyward toward the blackness of the sky, intent on piercing the canopy of stars. The Delta II rocket’s first full minute of life unfolded in perfect silence, the rocket’s light was far faster than its sound.

The flames of the rockets were hard to distinguish against the brilliant, almost blinding light of its tail as it rose and climbed away toward space with a G-loading on the Marsship far greater than any human astronaut could have endured safely. The rocket’s trajectory bent immediately as it sought out its preprogrammed trajectory, threading that invisible needle like corridor that represented its path outward to the Red Planet.

Soon enough, the nine small solid rocket boosters burned out and they were ejected, shedding weight and adding inertial energy to the streaking interplanetary ship. They fell away and down toward the ocean slowly like so many disorganized fireflies sparkling in their tiny tumbling individual dances back to earth.

About this moment, the sound pf the rocket began to roll and rumble. All launches are slightly different when it comes to their sound as it is fully defined by the weather and the way the Florida atmosphere blankets the island. But this launch was not going to disappoint – its roar and rubble was full and intense and literally rattled the world all around me.

As the ship rose higher and higher toward space, the atmosphere’s grip lessened to the point that it could no longer hold the engine’s fire together even in its hypersonic velocity. It caused the plume of the rocket to widen more and more as it rose. For us on the ground, this was a special treat, increasing our now distant view of the ship as it rose, accelerating away from us at more than ten thousand miles per hour.

Then not too long after that, the first stage shut down. For just a fraction of a second, the ships light faded. But then it was followed with a bright plume of fire and then by only a single point of bright, white light. The plumes were gone as the Aerojet rocket engine sprang to life burning propellants that were brilliantly white against the blackness of space, streaking away now like a slow star headed east north east away from me. I watched it until it was no longer visible. Eventually there was no way to tell the Phoenix from the other stars and now all of them were being swallowed up by the barely discernable glow of twilight just beginning to change the eastern horizon.

I sighed with awe and wonder. Here I had again witnessed yet another voyage to Mars, now regularly scheduled every other summer. It still impresses me and I know it always will. Mankind has found his way to another world as much like ours in our solar system as we are ever going to find. Just to watch it and to be there to see the magnificence of mankind’s daring and his dreams is just a wonder.

As I settled back into my car and turned on the light for the drive back, I had to pinch myself again. I had just witnessed another departure for Mars. I pray that I will never, ever get over that awesome wonder as long as I live. It is not just amazing. It is not just a wonder. It is a miracle and I wouldn’t miss for anything.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Phoenix off to Mars

Ralph Buttigieg
Sydney, NSW

Today at 5.36am Florida time, a Delta II rocket blasted off carrying NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander spacecraft on its 9 month mission to Mars. The Phoenix robot will land in the Martian Arctic and analyse soil and ice samples. Its instruments won't be able to detect life but will provide information on Mars biological potential.

From the press reports.

We have worked for four years to get to this point, so we are all very excited,'' said Phoenix project manager Barry Goldstein at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

NASA hopes to land the probe on flat ground with few or no rocks at a Martian latitude equivalent to northern Alaska on Earth.

Phoenix is likely to face Martian temperatures that range from minus 73 degrees Celsius to minus 33 C.

Once it lands safely on the Martian surface, the probe will deploy a set of research tools never before used on the planet.

The solar-powered craft is equipped with a 2.35 metre robotic arm that will enter vertically into the soil, aiming to strike the icy crust that is believed to lie within a few inches of the surface.

The Phoenix's robotic arm will lift soil samples to two instruments on its deck.

One instrument will check for water and carbon-based chemicals, considered essential building blocks for life, while the other will analyze the soil chemistry.

Many scientists see signs of ancient rivers and oceans on the arid and sterile surface of Mars, and believe the planet may once have harbored some forms of life.

In 2002, the NASA probe Mars Odyssey detected huge quantities of hydrogen on the Martian surface, a likely sign there could be ice at a depth of less than one metre.

"Phoenix investigates the recent Odyssey discovery of near-surface ice in the northern plains on Mars,'' said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson.

"Our instruments are specially designed to find evidence for periodic melting of the ice and to assess whether this large region represents a habitable environment for Martian microbes.''

I will be following this mission with considerable interest. How much water will they find? Could they possibly find hard proof of Martian life? Lets wait and see. More here.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


In my book UNDERSEA COLONIES I make the claim that the undersea dominion of the earth is not only vast but it is far richer in resources than the continents. I develop that idea into the fact that these undersea regions will have not only strategic importance but that they will be the next great empire on earth because of their richness and hence their ultimate strategic power.

Now, not even a month after the book’s release, reality appears on Aquatica’s sonar, as this news article supports:

“A mechanical arm dropped a specially made rust-proof titanium flag onto the Arctic seabed at a depth of 4,261 meters (13,980 ft), Itar-Tass news agency quoted expedition officials as saying.

Russia wants to extend right up to the North Pole the territory it controls in the Arctic, believed to hold vast reserves of untapped oil and natural gas.

But Canada mocked Russia's ambitions and said the expedition was nothing more than a show.

"This isn't the 15th century. You can't go around the world and just plant flags and say 'We're claiming this territory'," Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay told CTV television.

Under international law, the five states with territory inside the Arctic Circle -- Canada, Norway, Russia, the United States and Denmark via its control of Greenland -- have a 320 km (200 mile) economic zone around the north of their coastline.

Russia is claiming a larger slice extending as far as the pole because, Moscow says, the Arctic seabed and Siberia are linked by one continental shelf.

"Then Russia can give foundation to its claim to more than a million square kilometers of the oceanic shelf," said a newsreader for Russia's state news channel Vesti-24, which made the expedition their top news story.

"It was a soft landing," Tass quoted expedition leader Artur Chilingarov as saying from on board one of the submersibles.

The rest of the expedition team, floating on a support vessel between the giant ice sheets of the Arctic, broke into applause when news came through the mission had been completed.

"There is yellowish gravel down here. No creatures of the deep are visible," said Chilingarov, 67, a veteran Arctic explorer and parliament deputy for the pro-Kremlin party.

Expedition leaders have said their main worry is to resurface at the ice hole where they dived as the mini-submersibles are not strong enough to break through the North Pole's deep ice cap.

One of the aims of the expedition is to allow oceanographers to study the seabed and establish that Russia and the North Pole are part of the same shelf.

"The aim of this expedition is not to stake Russia's claim but to show that our shelf reaches to the North Pole," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Manila, where he is attending a regional security conference.

(Editor’s note – legally there is no difference in the two claims.)

The Mir-1 submersible reached the seabed at 1208 Moscow time (4:08 a.m. EDT). A second Russian submersible, manned by Swedish businessman Frederik Paulsen and Australian adventurer Mike McDowell, reached the seabed 27 minutes later. It reached a depth of 4,302 meters.

Soviet and U.S. nuclear submarines have often traveled under the polar icecap, but no one had reached the seabed under the Pole, where depths exceed 4,000 meters (13,100 feet).

You may check out the book by clicking here.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Undersea Colonies Review

A book review by Alex Michael Bonnici “...breathtaking and awesome... a new renaissance of wonder and exploration.” Alex Michael Bonnici - European Union Liaison – Atlantica Expeditions

The sea and oceans of our planet have since time immemorial been a familiar but mysterious and alien territory for much of human history. This is about to change.

Dennis Chamberland’s book “Undersea Colonies” will do for undersea settlement what Gerard K. O’Neill’s “The High Frontier” did for space colonization. This book will prove to be one of the most important works of the new millennium. It is a book of truly breathtaking and awesome scope and will go very far in preparing the human consciousness for the eventual permanent settlement and colonization of the undersea realm and in creating a new race of humans that can truly call themselves Aquaticans - the permanent dwellers of the new undersea continent of Aquatica. This book will make Aquaticans of us all.

Mr. Chamberland is a space systems engineer who has designed life support systems for space stations and undersea habitats. In his capable hands his wide ranging vision will become a reality.

After a hiatus of nearly forty years we can start talking seriously about undersea settlements again. In the words of E. Merrill Root "We need a renaissance of wonder. We need to renew, in our hearts and in our souls, the deathless dream, the eternal poetry, the perennial sense that life is miracle and magic". Undersea Colonies is a book that will prove to be on the vanguard of that new renaissance of wonder and exploration. It shows us that despite a misguided false start that the dream of colonizing the undersea world is still alive and well in the very capable hands of Dennis Chamberland.